This week:

The new research linking party locations and sexually aggressive behavior, the roster for the U.S. women’s soccer team, and a Q&A with Roxane Gay.

Experts say Instagram’s ban of ‘inappropriate’ content will negatively affect women

Instagram last month began demoting certain posts it deems “inappropriate” by restricting them from Instagram’s Explore and hashtag pages, according to a HuffPost report. However, Instagram has declined to define “inappropriate” and “sexually suggestive” content. This change, according to some experts, will hit women and sex workers the hardest. One Australian woman, an exotic dancer and artist, told HuffPost that engagement on her popular account, where she often posts erotic illustrations, has decreased. “The rules are not black and white. They couldn’t be more vague,” she said. “How will [algorithms] be able to differentiate [between] a woman in lingerie and a woman in a bikini at the beach? A fitness model? Where do they draw the line?”

Separately, Facebook, which owns Instagram, came under fire last week after it banned an Australian ad for a breast cancer organization.

Runner denied ‘fastest nurse’ world record because she was wearing pants

On April 28, Jessica Anderson broke the Guinness World Record for being the fastest woman to complete the London marathon dressed as a nurse. But Anderson, who finished 22 seconds faster than the three-hour, eight-minute and 54-second record, won’t get the title — according to Guinness World Records, whose criteria for a nurse’s uniform is based on mid-20th century stereotypes, Anderson’s medical scrubs disqualify her from being a record-breaker. (Guinness’s guidelines include “a white or blue dress, pinafore apron and white cap.”)

Anderson, a nurse at Royal London Hospital, had applied to be considered for the competition in February. When Guinness rejected her application, it “didn’t feel right” to her, she told The Washington Post. She ran anyway and — with or without the official recognition — broke the record for fastest time wearing scrubs.

Kirsten Gillibrand uses ‘cool’ factor in her campaign

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who has focused her 2020 presidential campaign on issues such as paid family leave and combating sexual harassment, is trying to woo voters by making a case “for being the coolest candidate in the race.” According to the Associated Press, Gillibrand played beer pong on a Friday night at a bar in Nashua, N.H., which later became an online ad.

An AP analysis showed that Gillibrand spent more on “communications consulting” through March than any other Democratic presidential candidate who listed similar expenditures. Her campaign has focused on humanizing Gillibrand as a candidate: On the campaign trail she has gone sledding, played foosball and hung out with drag queens at a bar. Many politicians employ this tactic, experts say, because candidates’ personalities can heavily influence election outcomes.

Caster Semenya says ‘hell no’ to taking drugs to suppress testosterone levels

Caster Semenya. (Paul Childs/Reuters; Lily illustration)
Caster Semenya. (Paul Childs/Reuters; Lily illustration)

On Wednesday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that two-time Olympic champion Caster Semenya will have to take medications that suppress her testosterone output to continue competing. The ruling, which upheld a controversial International Association of Athletics Federations regulation, set off a larger debate around gender and testosterone — which medical experts say has little effect on athletic ability.

In her last competition Friday, Semenya won gold in the 800-meter race. When asked after the race whether she would take medication, Semenya said “hell no.”

Semenya, 28, is believed to have an intersex condition that causes her body to naturally produce testosterone at higher levels than most women. She has faced scrutiny since winning her first world title at 18. “The decision of the CAS will not hold me back. I will once again rise above and continue to inspire young women and athletes in South Africa and around the world,” she said in a statement last week.

Lawsuit details sexist workplace culture, in which a female executive was instructed to serve cake

(iStock; Lily illustration)
(iStock; Lily illustration)

ExlService Holdings CEO Rohit Kapoor treated general counsel Nancy Saltzman differently than male employees, including instructing her, as one of the “ladies” at a company party, to serve cake to the company’s male junior executives, according to a lawsuit filed last week. When Saltzman joined the company in 2014 as a lawyer with two decades of experience, she was the most senior female executive at the publicly traded consulting firm. But she found that the workplace culture put on display “stark examples of gender stereotypes,” according to Russell Kornblith, who is representing Saltzman in the lawsuit. After she filed a discrimination complaint, she was fired, the lawsuit alleges.

Roster for the U.S. women’s soccer team announced

(iStock; Lily illustration)
(iStock; Lily illustration)

U.S. women’s national soccer coach Jill Ellis has announced her 23-woman squad, with just a month to go until the Women’s World Cup in France June 7 to July 7. In 2015, the U.S. women’s team beat Japan to win the cup in Canada. This year’s lineup includes many of the same players, including Ali Krieger and Morgan Brian, as well as core players Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe. “World cups aren’t a moment to invest in players,” Ellis said in a call with reporters. “World cups are about winning.”

The women’s team made headlines recently after it filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, alleging they make less than male players.

Amid news about a fraternity’s ‘rape attic,’ new research links location and sexually aggressive behavior

(iStock; Lily illustration)
(iStock; Lily illustration)

On Tuesday, Swarthmore College’s two fraternity houses disbanded after coming under intense criticism over leaked documents that used homophobic, racist and misogynistic language. Multiple documents, including women’s accounts of their experiences at the fraternities, were published in a Tumblr blog started in early April. One of the most egregious sections in the documents included jokes from 2013 about a “rape attic;” people also blogged about “getting assaulted in the rooms or seeing their friends get assaulted in the rooms,” according to senior Morgin Goldberg, one of the students who created the blog.

Amid the news, the Atlantic published a piece highlighting a new study that found that party locations play a role in male college students’ sexually aggressive behavior. The study, which followed the partying and hookup behaviors of more than 1,000 straight men over four semesters, found that men’s attendance at bars and parties was a better predictor of their sexual aggression than simply binge-drinking.

“Although most college sexual assault prevention efforts have focused on reducing the vulnerability of women, our results suggest efforts that focus on potential perpetrators’ behaviors may also be fruitful,” the authors wrote.

According to data released by the Pentagon on Thursday, there has been a surge of sexual assaults reported by service members over the past two years. Instances of “unwanted sexual contact,” which includes rape, forcible sodomy, groping and other offenses, increased by nearly 38 percent in 2018, according to the results. Acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan said the survey is a call to arms. “This is unacceptable,” he said in a memo. “We cannot shrink from facing the challenge head on.”


• On Thursday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed a law striking down the state’s marital rape exception, which had protected rapists against prosecution if they lived with and had an ongoing sexual relationship with the victim.

• Cheslie Kryst, a 28-year-old lawyer from North Carolina, was crowned Miss USA last week. For the first time, Miss USA, Miss America and Miss Teen USA are all black women.

Cheslie Kryst. (Jason Bean/The Reno Gazette-Journal/AP)
Cheslie Kryst. (Jason Bean/The Reno Gazette-Journal/AP)

• President Trump announced in a tweet that Stephen Moore, his controversial pick for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board, had “decided to withdraw from the Fed process.” Moore had come under scrutiny in recent weeks for his past sexist writings about women.

• Several Democrats have urged Attorney General William P. Barr to resign following a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. On Friday, 2020 Democratic hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.), who asked Barr during the hearing whether the White House had ever asked or suggested he open an investigation into the president’s perceived enemies, called on the Department of Justice inspector general to investigate his answer. Barr declined to answer.

(Courtesy of Roxane Gay)
(Courtesy of Roxane Gay)

Roxane Gay, a New York Times contributing opinion writer, is the author of several bestselling books, including “Ayiti, An Untamed State” (2018), “Bad Feminist” (2017) and “Hunger” (2014). She is also the author of “World of Wakanda” for Marvel, and is known for having a prolific Twitter feed. Gay will be honored this June by storytelling nonprofit the Moth with the “Art of the Raconteur” award.

Her favorite line from something she’s read recently: “I’m reading ‘The Source of Self-Regard’ by Toni Morrison, and there are so many incredible lines. One of my favorites is, ‘The media spectacle must not continue to direct its attention to the manufacture of consent, rather than debate with more than two sides, to the reinforcement of untruths, and a review of what else there is to buy.’ It is a particularly apt sentiment given the contretemps.”

On what she’s learned from her students, and what they’ve taught her: “My students teach me to take risks in my work and I hope I teach the same.”

Her proudest recent tweet: “I told some man to democratize his way out of my mentions.”

On whether all artists and writers should stay aware of daily politics: “It’s a personal choice, I suppose, but I do believe it is crucial to acknowledge and engage with the political climate. We cannot ignore the state of the world. We cannot ignore the very real threats of the GOP agenda here in the United States, the rise of fascism and white supremacy globally, the issues women are facing, the threat of Roe v. Wade being overturned, voter suppression, foreign interference in our elections, the list goes on. We don’t write in a bubble, and I will never understand the supposedly artistic inclination to act as such.”

What she wants women to know, in one sentence: “Rather than tell women something, instead, I would ask them what they need to feel heard and seen.”

When is the last time you checked a book out from the library? My love of the library started as a young kid attending summer reading programs and has continued into my 20s. The library is one of the few public resources that is available to everyone for free, and I don’t think people take enough advantage of it. You can rent free spaces for meetings or parties and attend meetups or classes. Plus, many libraries offer ebook rentals. Head to your local library to see what it has to offer.

Rachel Orr, Lily lead art director

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